Purses with pebbles puzzle probers
Investigators are puzzling out some things that have been found on 13 people killed in a supposed shootout with police and soldiers in Atimonan, Quezon province, on Jan. 6. For instance, coin purses filled with pebbles were found in each of 11 of the 13 victims.
Were those the “tokens” reportedly given by small-scale gold miner Ronnie “Enor” Habitan to the companions of his friends Victor “Vic” Siman and Supt. Alfredo Consemino before they left after a visit with him at his house in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, that Sunday, Jan. 6?
If those were the tokens, what did Habitan’s gesture mean?
Or is it possible that the purses really contained gold nuggets, but policemen took and replaced them with pebbles after the supposed shootout?
It looks like Supt. Hansel Marantan’s police team that figured in the supposed shootout has a lot to explain to investigators besides how did an operation to get an alleged illegal gambling lord turn into a bloodbath.
An inventory of the slain men’s belongings failed to turn up the P5 million Habatin reportedly gave to Siman.
But the question of the missing P5 million has now been answered, with Habitan’s statement to the Inquirer on Saturday denying the report he gave Siman money on Jan. 6 for the bond for a new contract to provide security services to Greenfield Estates in Laguna.
Habitan and Siman were business partners in New Marc Security Agency, which won a service contract from Greenfields Estate.
Siman, Habitan’s vice president in the security agency, submitted a budget proposal of P4.6 million for January to March this year.
Habitan told Siman that he would have his lawyer review the budget proposal and promised to bring the money to Laguna after the approval of the proposal.
“I did not give them money,” Habitan said, putting to rest speculations about the missing P5 million.
In speaking about his friendship with Siman, Habitan mentioned that he gave him a gold lighter that he himself crafted. The lighter was worth P500,000.
Earlier reports had Habitan giving the same kind of lighter to Consemino, general manager of the security agency, and “tokens” to the 11 men in Siman’s group before his guests left after having lunch with him on Jan. 6.
Habitan did not say what those tokens were, but since the “high-grade” miner gives gold away to friends, it is possible that the tokens were nuggets of gold.
Only 12 visitors
Habitan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer something else: he had only 12 guests, including Siman. He said he was sure there were only 12 because he shook hands with each of them as they were leaving.
So why is the body count in Atimonan 13?
Is it possible there was another collateral damage and the body was thrown in with the rest?
Money was found among the belongings of the dead in the two sports utility vehicles in Siman’s group. It was P250,000, found in a plastic LBC envelope that police said belonged to Siman.
The police inventory, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, showed that P18,000 was found on environmentalist Tirso Lontok Jr.
The rest of the victims had very little money on them.
Leonardo Marasign, the driver of the second vehicle, had only P27 in his wallet; Conrad Decillo, the driver of the lead vehicle, had P150; Consemino, P350 in his wallet and another P500, found in a small, red Chinese envelope.
Victorino Atienza had P400; Gerry Siman, P600; S/Sgt. Armando Lescano, P400; PO1 Jeffrey Valdez, P100; SPO1 Gruet Mantuano, P270; and Maximo Pelayo, P2,050.
Found among the belongings of Pelayo was a brown wallet that belonged to one Victor Gonzales Garcia. The wallet contained P150.
The inventory includes the belongings of real estate broker Paul Quiohilag and Jimbeam Justiniani, who, according to police records, were taken to hospital but died on the way there.
Employees at Doña Marta Memorial District Hospital in Atimonan said men in civvies brought in the two victims.
Hospital records showed the victims were brought in at 4 p.m., 40 minutes after the supposed clash at the checkpoint at Barangay Lumutan in Atimonan.
The records also showed that Justiniani had been shot in the head, neck, chest, abdomen and arm.
Quiohilag had been hit in the temple, neck, left chest and stomach. The records showed his left arm was fractured.
A source at the National Bureau of Investigation’s Death Investigation Division said a second autopsy showed that Quiohilag was shot at close range.